Polk commissioner candidates talk about backgrounds

Published 1:41 pm Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The candidates introduced themselves and gave information about their backgrounds. The biographical information each candidate provided is given below in their own words.&bsp; (Look for the candidates&39; answers to questions in future issues of the Bulletin.)

Ray Gasperson: My family has been living here since 2001. My memories of Polk County go back much further when my grandfather, who would take me trout fishing, would bring me in the early 50s and we would sit along the Green and Pacolet rivers ‐ that&squo;s just wonderful childhood memories. I&squo;m a native of our Southern Appalachian Mountains and I&squo;ve lived here my whole life, but have lived in Polk County full-time since 2001. My wife Sue and I just celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary. We have three adult children: Laura and her husband live in Asheville with our granddaughter; an adult son, Cory and our youngest daughter, Julia; we&squo;re having a wedding at our farm this Saturday.

I&squo;d like to say as county commissioner the three things that are most important to me are number one, to maintain our rural landscape, secondly, I think it&squo;s very important that we consider the whole of the, as I call it, the human resources. Most of you may be retired to the area, which is wonderful, but we also need to keep in mind all of our local folk who may go back generations here. I&squo;m concerned about making sure everybody feels included in our local government.

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And third I think we need to have some job development locally here. And this is development that corresponds to our county; the uniqueness of Polk County. I&squo;m glad to be here; thank you for coming.

David Moore: First of all I&squo;d like to thank you for coming out tonight and thank Hunting Country for hosting the forum. It&squo;s a privilege to be here. I am David Moore, candidate for county commissioner. I&squo;m married to my wife of 29 years, Lorraine, and we have two grown children. Justin is 26 and lives in Indiana. My daughter is 22, a senior at Western Carolina, graduating Dec. 13, so I know I&squo;ll get a raise then, for sure. Successful children that are doing well for themselves, so I&squo;m proud of that. I&squo;m employed with Mountain Professionals as a driver&39;s ed instructor for the State of North Carolina, DMV certified. I have over 16 years of management experience at a previous job that I was at.

I&squo;ve served now my second year as a board member for the Polk Vocational Services here in Polk County. I also just finished up serving a year on the visioning committee that most of you may have gotten surveys and filled out, I was on that committee. Mr. Pack served on it and several others throughout the county. That report was given to our commissioners, Mr. Melton and them on June 16 of this year. So, that&squo;s where we&squo;re at with that. It was very clear on this report where our citizens spoke. That&squo;s one reason I&squo;m running for county commissioner. They want to protect our rural heritage ‐ water is very vital to this county and farmland preservation and protecting our farmers. As a commissioner I want to be a conservative voice for all citizens of Polk County, not just this group, that group; I want to be for each citizen out there.

Ren´e McDermott: I&squo;ve spent my lifetime with local government. Literally. Some of my earliest recollections are sitting on my parents&squo; laps at county commissioners meetings trying to keep our home area rural. So I come by it naturally; it&squo;s in my blood.

Before coming to Polk County, I served as a county attorney for five years in a small, rural county much like Polk County. And I&squo;ve been involved in Polk County government pretty well since I got here. I served on the land use planning committee, the groundwater sustainability project and the ridgetop and mountain preservation group. I got involved in farmland preservation before it became so well known. I&squo;ve long served with the Pacolet Area Conservancy, writing many of their conservation and agricultural easements. I&squo;m wanting to keep Polk County rural and beautiful and that&squo;s my main goal; keeping Polk County as rural and beautiful as it is today. My second and third goal is to better manage Polk County&squo;s assets and to supply a sustainable water source for Polk County.

Polk County needs much better management in so many ways. For years, right up to the present, the commissioners have counted on false savings of putting off building maintenance needs. That got us to where the ceiling in the health department actually fell in on a visitor to the health department. That got us to where the Jervey Palmer building, which houses social service, mental health services and the Meeting Place for seniors is in such disrepair that it&squo;s said to be uninhabitable. &dquo;A pile of junk,&dquo; in the words of one of the sitting commissioners. Even though the Jervey Palmer building needs to be replaced, the commissioners are spending tens of thousands of dollars on it now because it needs heat before winter. Good money after bad.

I want a sustainable water source for Polk County so we don&squo;t have to depend solely on ground water. We need to do a lot of things for Polk County, and that&squo;s going to take new leadership.

Ted Owens: Thank you. It&squo;s good to be back here for the third time. I feel like I&squo;m back home. My name is Teddy B. &dquo;Ted&dquo; Owens, I prefer to be called Ted Owens.

I&squo;m a native of Tryon. I&squo;m a Tryon hometown boy. Luckily my grandfather had a farm over behind Polk Central and I lived over there when I was about eight years old, nine years old and spent the rest of my youth on a farm over there, which taught me a lot of stuff that I had not learned in the big city of Tryon.

I just recently retired, I say recently, it seems to be, the last four years, retired from Milliken and Company as a senior territorial manager, spending almost 49, 50 years with them. I am married and have six grandkids, three kids. The best grandkids in the world, so don&squo;t argue with me.

I&squo;m honored to be serving you as your commissioner right now and it is my desire to continue to serve you. In my travels with Milliken I had the opportunity to travel a lot of places and to be honest with you it was always wonderful to get back home. There&squo;s no better place than Polk County and many of you chose to come here so you know what I&squo;m talking about.

So give me just a moment to say a few things. Four years ago when we came into office, many good things were going on, like the middle school was being built, the recreation park was being put together. But the thing we saw was there was not a lot of good oversight. A lot of things that were happening were not being questioned, like the engineers and so forth. We inherited like a $20-something million debt. I suggested we hire an engineer from home, from Polk County, and we did and he&squo;s done a wonderful job helping us save money. I believe that people that have retired here and we have an opportunity to use more people. And I have many more things to say. My wife says I can&squo;t introduce myself in 30 minutes anyway.

Cindy Walker: I&squo;m Cindy Walker. I live in the valley outside Tryon in the house my mom grew up in. I&squo;ve got two kids still at home. They go to Polk County High School. I own a small business and I work several part time jobs.

I work hard. I volunteer a lot. Some of you may know me from the recycling that&squo;s been going on; we&squo;re doing really good with recycling. I&squo;m an action oriented person. I believe the volume of my actions far exceed the volume of my words. I believe that walking the talk is the best way to carry an ideal and that every little thing we do matters.

I love Polk County. I moved here five years ago. It&squo;s beautiful. We&squo;ve got mountains, hills, forests, waterfalls, streams, rivers, pastures, farms, small towns. It&squo;s beautiful. It&squo;s a paradise and it&squo;s worthy of our protection. And that&squo;s what I&squo;d like to do as your representative on the Polk County Board of Commissioners.

Protecting Polk County through efficient local government is my highest priority. I might forget what I&squo;m saying, but I&squo;m going to keep on. Lower taxes and high standards will make it so that individuals, retirees, families and small businesses can thrive in Polk County.

Long range, sustainable solutions will strengthen our community and (build) trust in local government because sometimes I get worried. You could say I&squo;ve got some trust issues. You know there&squo;s not anything in place today that could stop somebody from coming in here and scalping another little mountain. Not really. We could put a call into the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and they may send one of their 32 field agents covering 9,000 jobs down here to check it out. They could issue a violation, charge a fine and put in a stop work order but they can&squo;t put the trees back. They can&squo;t recharge the groundwater. And they can&squo;t stop the topsoil from running down the side of the hill when a good rain comes along.

I&squo;d like to get busy, get active and get some things in place to protect this county. I&squo;m Cindy Walker and I&squo;m the only walker running.

Tom Pack: Thank you for being here tonight. My name is Tom Pack, I&squo;m running for re-election to the Polk County Board of Commissioners. I&squo;m in my last year of a four-year term of county commissioner.

I&squo;m a native of Polk County with strong family ties to Polk County. I&squo;m married to the former Lisa Moore of Taylorsville, N.C. We have two boys, Eric, age 9, and Timothy, age 7. I&squo;m vice president of manufacturing of White Oak Carpeting in Spindale.

One of my top priorities as commissioner has been to listen to the concerns of the people. A clear message from the people is to keep Polk County rural. To help accomplish this, I first increased the lot size in major subdivisions to seven acres without public water and sewer and five acres with public water and sewer. We also rezoned the Collinsville area at the request of the citizens of that area to help keep it rural. And that&squo;s a five acre minimum now. I also served on the visioning committee. The next step is a comprehensive plan which has my full support.

I also support the farmland preservation movement. If the land transfer tax passes in November, I will support placing 100 percent of the revenue from the tax in farmland preservation each year that I serve on the board.

Another important issue was to make sure Polk County has a viable water source. We accomplished this as a board by now having Lake Adger under contract. That will give us a water source for Polk County that is clearly controlled by Polk County.

I&squo;ve also been involved in making sure that we maintain the buildings that we have and also look forward to what facilities we need for the future. We&squo;re finishing a proper renovation of our historic courthouse and we&squo;ve also completed a new middle school, county library, transfer station, additions at Tryon Elementary, renovations at Stearns Gym and an addition at Sunny View Elementary is under way. We&squo;re also currently looking at replacing the building that houses DSS, the senior center, mental health and veterans&squo; affairs.

I&squo;ve supported moving Polk County forward with proper planning and not just reacting to the crisis at hand. Thank you.